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Macbeth, LA Opera

On Thursday evening October 13, Los Angeles Opera transmitted Giuseppe Verdi’s Macbeth live from the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, in the center of the city, to a pier in Santa Monica and to South Gate Park in Southeastern Los Angeles County. My companion and I saw the opera in High Definition on a twenty-five foot high screen at the park.

Jamie Barton at the Wigmore Hall

“Hi! … I’m at the Wigmore Hall!” American mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton’s exuberant excitement at finding herself performing in the world’s premier lieder venue was delightful and infectious. With accompanist James Baillieu, Barton presented what she termed a “love-fest” of some of the duo’s favourite art songs. The programme - Turina, Brahms, Dvořák, Ives, Sibelius - was also surely designed to show-case Barton’s sumptuous and balmy tone, stamina, range and sheer charisma; that is, the qualities which won her the First and Song Prizes at the 2013 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition.

The Nose: Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

“If I lacked ears, it would be bad, but still more bearable; but lacking a nose, a man is devil knows what: not a bird, not a citizen—just take and chuck him out the window!”

Věc Makropulos in San Francisco

A fixation on death at San Francisco Opera. A 337 year-old woman gave it all up just now after only six years since she last gave it all up on the War Memorial stage.

The Pearl Fishers at English National Opera

Penny Woolcock's 2010 production of Bizet's The Pearl Fishers returned to English National Opera (ENO) for its second revival on 19 October 2018. Designed by Dick Bird (sets) and Kevin Pollard (costumes) the production remains as spectacular as ever, and ENO fielded a promising young cast with Claudia Boyle as Leila, Robert McPherson as Nadir and Jacques Imbrailo as Zurga, plus James Creswell as Nourabad, conducted by Roland Böer.

Academy of Ancient Music: The Fairy Queen at the Barbican Hall

At the end of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Theseus delivers a speech which returns to the play’s central themes: illusion, art and the creative imagination. The sceptical king dismisses ‘The poet’s vision - his ‘eye, in a fine frenzy rolling’ - which ‘gives to airy nothing/ A local habitation and a name’; such art, and theatre, is a psychological deception brought about by an excessive, uncontrolled imagination.

Vaughan Williams and Friends: St John's Smith Square

Following the success of previous ‘mini-festivals’ at St John’s Smith Square devoted to Schubert and Schumann, last weekend pianist Anna Tilbrook curated a three-day exploration of the work of Ralph Vaughan Williams and his contemporaries. The music performed in these six concerts was chosen to reflect the changing contexts in which it was composed and to reveal the vast changes in society, politics and culture which occurred during Vaughan Williams’ long life-time (1872-1958) and which shaped his life and creative output.

Bloodless Manon Lescaut at DNO

Trying to work around Manon Lescaut’s episodic structure, this new production presents the plot as the dying protagonist’s feverish hallucinations. The result is a frosty retelling of what is arguably Puccini’s most hot-blooded opera. Musically, the performance also left much to be desired.

English Touring Opera: Xerxes

It is Herodotus who tells us that when Xerxes was marching through Asia to invade Greece, he passed through the town of Kallatebos and saw by the roadside a magnificent plane-tree which, struck by its great beauty, he adorned with golden ornaments, and ordered that a man should remain beside the tree as its eternal guardian.

English National Opera: Tosca

Poor Puccini. He is far too often treated as a ‘box-office hit’ by our ‘major’ opera houses, at least in Anglophone countries. For so consummate a musical dramatist, that is something beyond a pity. Here in London, one is far better advised to go to Holland Park for interesting, intelligent productions, although ENO’s offerings have often had something to be said for them.

Don Pasquale in San Francisco

With only four singers and a short-story-like plot Don Pasquale is an ideal chamber opera. That chamber just now was the 3200 seat War Memorial Opera House where this not always charming opera buffa is an infrequent visitor (post WWII twice in the 1980’s after twice in the 40’s).

“Written in fire”: Momenta Quartet blazes through an Indonesian chamber opera

“Yang sementara tak akan menahan bintang hilang di bimasakti; Yang bergetar akan terhapus.” (“The transient cannot hold on to stars lost in the Milky Way; that which quivers will be erased.”) As soprano Tony Arnold sang these words of Tony Prabowo’s chamber opera Pastoral, with astonishingly crisp Indonesian diction, the first night of the second annual Momenta Festival approached its end.

English National Opera: Don Giovanni

Some operas seemed designed and destined to raise questions and debates - sometimes unanswerable and irresolvable, and often contentious. Termed a dramma giocoso, Mozart’s Don Giovanni has, historically, trodden a movable line between seria and buffa.

World Premiere Eötvös, Wigmore Hall, London

Péter Eötvös’ The Sirens Cycle received its world premiere at the Wigmore Hall, London, on Saturday night with Piia Komsi and the Calder Quartet. An exceptionally interesting new work, which even on first hearing intrigues: imagine studying the score! For The Sirens Cycle is elegantly structured, so intricate and so complex that it will no doubt reveal even greater riches the more familiar it becomes. It works so well because it combines the breadth of vision of an opera, yet is as concise as a chamber miniature. It's exquisite, and could take its place as one of Eötvös's finest works.

Manitoba Underground Opera: Mozart and Offenbach

Manitoba Underground Opera took audiences on a journey — literally and figuratively — as it presented its latest installment of repertory opera between August 19–26.

Stars of Lyric Opera 2016, Millennium Park, Chicago

On a recent weekend Lyric Opera of Chicago gave its annual concert at Millennium Park during which the coming season and its performers are variously showcased. Several of the performers, who were featured at this “Stars of Lyric Opera” event, are scheduled to make their debuts in Lyric Opera’s new production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold beginning on 1 October.

Così fan tutte at Covent Garden

Desire and deception; Amor and artifice. In Jan Philipp Gloger’s new production of Così van tutte at the Royal Opera House, the artifice is of the theatrical, rather than the human, kind. And, an opera whose charm surely lies in its characters’ amiable artfulness seems more concerned to underline the depressing reality of our own deluded faith in human fidelity and integrity.

Plácido Domingo as Macbeth, LA Opera

On September 22, 2016, Los Angeles Opera presented Darko Tresnjak’s production of Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Macbeth. Verdi and Francesco Maria Piave based their opera on Shakespeare’s play of the same name.

The Rake’s Progress: an Opera for Our Time

On September 18th, at a casual Sunday matinee, Pacific Opera Project presented a surprising choice for a small company. It was Igor Stravinsky’s 1951 three act opera, The Rake’s Progress. It’s a piece made for today's supertitles with its exquisitely worded libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman.

Classical Opera: Haydn's La canterina

We are nearing the end of Classical Opera’s MOZART 250 sojourn through 1766, a year that the company’s artistic director Ian Page admits was ‘on face value … a relatively fallow year’. I’m not so sure: Jommelli’s Il Vogoleso, performed at the Cadogan Hall in April, was a gem. But, then, I did find the repertoire that Classical Opera offered at the Wigmore Hall in January, ‘worthy rather than truly engaging’ (review). And, this programme of Haydn and his Czech contemporary Josef Mysliveček was stylishly executed but did not absolutely convince.



Danae by Jan Mabuse (aka Jan Gossaert)
31 Jul 2011

Die Liebe der Danae, Bard Summerstage

In the modern operatic world, respect for the oeuvre of any given composer, as well as his stylistic development and placement in operatic history, is sacrosanct.

Richard Strauss: Die Liebe der Danae

Danae: Meagan Miller; Jupiter: Carsten Wittmoser; Midas: Roger Honeywell; Xanthe: Sarah Jane McMahon; Pollux: Dennis Petersen; Merkur: Jud Perry; Semele: Aurora Sein Perry; Europa: Camille Zamora; Alcmene: Jamie Van Eyck; Leda: Rebecca Ringle. American Symphony Orchestra. Conducted by Leon Botstein, music director. Directed by Kevin Newbury. Set Design by Rafael Viñoly and Mimi Lien. Costumes by Jessica Jahn. Lighting by D. M. Wood.

Above: Danae by Jan Mabuse (aka Jan Gossaert)


Consequently, organizations such Bard Summerstage, which have these tenets incorporated into their mission, serve an invaluable purpose.

The opera portion of this year’s festival, saw the U.S. premier of Richard Strauss’s forgotten gem Die Liebe der Danae. At first glance, Bard’s decision to present this opera may seem a bit strange. After all, Strauss is a very well-represented late Romantic composer. Yet, on closer inspection, one realizes that Strauss, like Jean Sibelius, who co-shares the spotlight of this festival, fell out of favor with the 20th century public, who viewed his unabashed tonality as antique. To be sure, there are moments in Strauss’s music that are atonal, but as far as operas go, people were more interested in the shock value of Salome than in the lyricism of Die Liebe der Danae.

Despite occasional blemishes, the cast and production team managed to present the opera in such a way that made a compelling case for Strauss’s unapologetic melodies, as well as the composer’s penchant for utilizing even the most omnipresent of mythic gods.

Under the direction of Leon Botstein, the American Symphony Orchestra exhibited both the lyricism and the humor of the score. While it is wonderful to see a new side of a revered composer, it is also enjoyable to revel in what he is already known for. In this case, I would have liked to see more of a balance between the humor and lyricism in Act I, but Botstein improved in that regard as the opera progressed.

The cast was headed by Meagan Miller, who has previously won the National Council Auditions of the Metropolitan Opera. Her voice was powerful, yet also extremely lyrical. For those used to other sopranos such as Lauren Flanigan, the deep timbre of her voice may, at first, be disconcerting, but there were times throughout the performance, when during a lyrical passage, the audience was simply spellbound. As Midas, Roger Honeywell was stunning. Especially noteworthy was his Act I entrance, which put the difficulty of the role on par with Verdi’s Otello. There were times when he seemed to lose stamina, but those moments were few, and he quickly recovered. Of mention were Jud Perry, who played Mercury, and Aurora Sein Perry, Camille Zamora, Jamie Van Eyck, and Rebecca Ringle, who played Semele, Europa, Alcmene, and Leda, respectively. They brought a comic element to the opera which was much appreciated. Although the four women required time to warm up as an ensemble, they managed to create spotless psychological portrayals on the individual level, and by the end, they worked as a cohesive group.

It must be said that, as Jupiter, Carsten Wittmoser was a bit lackluster. However, he too improved by the last act. Still, it has been said that Jupiter was a complex character, on par with Der Rosenkavalier’s Maria Theresa, and Wittmoser missed many opportunities to demonstrate the complexities of this most-human king of the gods.

Overall the production was impeccable and visually compelling. The chorus sang strongly and portrayed the greedy inhabitants of Eos in a way that strengthened Kevin Newbury’s modern adaptation, which set the story in post-recession America. The physical aspects of the production were stirring. The stage pictures Newbury created demonstrated both the appeal and severity of wealth, a point so crucial to the story. Additionally, there were moments that were both comic, yet touching. Such was the case when, in Act III, Danae put her suitcases in the beat up jalopy that would her car in the decidedly unwealthy life she chose with her beloved Midas.

Bard Summerstage deserves credit for a job well done for successfully resurrecting an incredibly powerful 20th century work. Die Liebe der Danae is proof positive. While Strauss’s music may be lyrical, it is richly enduring. Tastes may change, but the humanity of Strauss’s music doesn’t.

Gregory Moomjy

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